This Shabbat in which we read the double Parsha Netzavim-Vayeilech is the last one of the year. According to the Shaloh, despite the fact that the Torah reading schedule was made independently of the cycle of Jewish holidays, every Torah reading reflects the themes of the Holiday that occurs within that week.
One of the obvious themes that both this Parsha and Rosh Hashanah share is the theme of Teshuvah (repentance-return) Rosh Hashanah is the first of the Ten Days of Teshuvah. Upon deeper reflection, one might argue that the theme of Teshuvah is more forcefully associated with the days following Rosh Hashanah. Besides the fact that we almost never make mention of our sins and repentance for them on Rosh Hashanah itself, Rosh Hashanah is known primarily as the Day of Judgment rather than the Day of Teshuvah. We must, therefore, find a connection between this week's Parsha and the theme of judgment that occurs on Rosh Hashanah.
Upon deeper reflection, we shall see hat the connection to Rosh Hashanah appears at the very beginning of the Parsha which states: “You are standing firmly today..”
On the surface, these were part of Moses' farewell address to the Jewish people. But, according to R. Schneur Zalman of Liadi (known as the Alter Rebbe, the author of the Tanya, the primary text of Chassidic literature), the word “today” refers to the day of Rosh Hashanah. And the Torah in this week's Parsha informs us that we all stand firmly on this day of judgment. This means that we will be victorious in our judgment.
One can ask the following question. If Rosh Hashanah is the day of judgment, G-d obviously, scrutinizes our every deed, How ten can we be so confident that we will prevail in our judgment?
The answer has actually been furnished by the Torah itself, The verse in its entirety reads: “You are all standing firmly today, all of you before the L-rd your G-d; your heads, your tribes, your elders and your officers, all the men of Israel, your little ones your wives, and your stranger that is in the midst of your camp, from the hewer of your wood unto the drawer of your water.” The key to being victorious is thus for all of us to stand together.
But, even this prescription begs for an explanation. Why would G-d overlook our flaws just because we stand together?
One of the answers lies in the identification of the diverse categories enumerated in the Parsha. The two last categories were the hewers of wood and the water carriers. These people, our Sages tell us, were members of a Canaanite tribe who deceived Moses (just as a similar tribe tricked Joshua) into converting them and accepting them into the Jewish community. Because of their deviousness, they were relegated to the position of wood-choppers and water carriers. Despite their lowly status, Moses exhorted the Jewish people, you must always remain united with them. Similarly, on Rosh Hashanah, we must express our unity with all Jews, including those who might possess serious flaws.
By accepting every Jew, regardless of their lowly status, we demonstrate that our love for our fellow is not just predicated on the logical premise that we should accept and love those who are good role models. Even those, who do not possess any overt qualities, we still accept and love, simply because they are part of our Jewish community.
By behaving in this “irrational” manner and overlooking people's shortcomings, we cause G-d to act in a similar manner. Just as we accepted others notwithstanding their less than exemplary behavior and character, the A-mighty will accept us in judgment, despite the flaws we possess. The reading of this parsha thus is a most fitting prelude to the day of Rosh Hashanah.
And just as Jewish unity is crucial as we enter the New Year, so is it imperative for our entering into the new era, the Age of Redemption that we have awaited for so long.
May we all be inscribed and sealed for a good and sweet year!